Nest Protect review: A superb smoke detector gets cheaper

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DEAL ALERT: The Nest Protect smoke detector, which we first reviewed at the price of £109, is currently on offer. Over at the BT online shop, you can currently pick one up for just £79. An absolute bargain.

Tom's review continues below

Nest Labs went from obscurity to the big time overnight after Google bought the money for $3.2bn. It's a lot of money, but if track records are anything to go by then CEO Tony Fadell has one of the best - as he oversaw the design and launch of the original iPod.

After leaving Apple in 2008, he set up Nest to launch a smart home Thermostat and has now followed it up with the Protect smoke alarm. It's a simple yet highly technical gadget that promises to monitor your house for smoke and carbon monoxide, but manages to look great while doing it.

It's slightly larger and bulkier than a standard smoke detector, but looks a lot sleeker - Protect has a beautifully minimal design that clearly owes a debt to Apple's design philosophy. The all-white plastic finish looks great thanks to a web-like pattern and glowing circular activity LED, which doubles as the alarm's only physical button.

Nest Protect

The colour-coded circle glows to indicate the status of each alarm in order to help warn the hearing impaired; green means all is well, yellow indicates a problem and red appears when the alarm sounds. Sensibly the green light is paired with the built-in light sensor, so it only glows for a few seconds when you turn off the lights. It glows blue for status updates and turns white when you walk past it in the dark, to act as a night light.

Protect is a smart alarm, meaning it connects to the internet, sends reports to your smartphone or tablet, and can even inform your smart thermostat to disable the boiler if it detects a CO2 leak - assuming you live in the US, as the Nest Thermostat still isn't available here in the UK. It should be arriving later this year.

Nest Protect

You'll need a smartphone to set up your first Protect detector. After installing the free Nest App and creating an account, you can add the alarm by scanning the QR code on the rear face. It automatically creates a temporary Wi-Fi hotspot, connects to your phone and registers with your account. You can then add it to your main home wireless network and check its status at any time.

Protect is available in wired and battery powered versions - if you're building or renovating and can hide the cables a wired model makes sense, as it will save you replacing the six AA batteries in each detector. It still has three AAs which kick in should you have a power cut. Nest expects the wireless model to last up to five years between battery changes.

Nest Protect

Unlike a standard smoke alarm, Protect won't start to blip when it runs low on power. It will let you know through the accompanying smartphone app that it's time to change the batteries - it's much less annoying, and means you're less likely to disconnect the alarm out of frustration.

The 85dB(A) alarm is easily loud enough to wake you up in an emergency, but you shouldn't hear it should you have a minor kitchen accident. A loud spoken warning repeats itself several times before activating the alarm. Even then, a motion detector lets you wave in front of the alarm to deactivate it - that means you'll never need to reach for the tea towel and close doors should you accidentally burn the toast. The female voice was chosen as tests have proved it was more likely to wake a sleeping child than a male voice.

Nest Protect

We tested Protect using a Smoke Sabre aerosol, which is used by industry professionals to test smoke detectors. It worked flawlessly, ignoring a small spray but issuing several verbal warnings when a larger amount was sprayed, before sounding the full alarm. It silences instantly when the button is pressed, or you wave your hands in front of its motion sensor - you have to use big gestures, to avoid accidentally deactivating an alarm in an emergency. Any connected smartphones receive a warning notification within seconds of the alarm activating, again when it is silenced and a third time to let you know smoke is clearing from an area.

Nest Protect

There's no doubt that Protect is an effective detector that should give you greater peace of mind than a regular alarm, as it's easier to monitor and won't annoy you with false alarms or low battery warnings. However, you pay for this convenience. A standard smoke and carbon monoxide detector will set you back around £20, but the Nest Protect costs five times as much. If you've already invested in a Nest Thermostat, or plan to do so once they officially launch in the UK, Protect alarms are its natural companion. It's a great gadget to give you peace of mind, even if it's a pricey one.

Details

Price £109
Rating *****

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